October 07, 2017

Balochistan:The worst place for women to be born.

More than 3 times as many Baloch women die during childbirth than all the other regions of Pakistan combined. Every day Baloch women are beaten, tortured, abducted and murdered in a Pakistani Army operations in occupied Balochistan.

By Imdad  Baloch

Even today women in many Middle Eastern & Central Asian regions.
women  are oppressed, victimized and treated as slaves.

Women in occupied Balochistan are deprived of all the basic neccessities of life like clean water, education and adequate health care facilities.

In the absense of proper health care facitilites, Baloch women often have to  travel over 700 km to the nearest hospital in Karachi. Maternal mortality rates are very high among the Baloch women.

According to a Pakistan Health Demographic Survery, more than 3 times as many Baloch women die during childbirth than all the other regions of Pakistan combined.

Since the day Balochistan was annexed and occupied by Pakistan in 1948, the Punjab run State has been plundering Balochistan’s resources. Every day Baloch women are being beaten, tortured, abducted and murdered in a Pakistani Army operations in occupied Balochistan.

Though rich in natural resources like Gold, Gas, Coal and Oil, Balochistan remains one of the most impoverished and underdeveloped regions in the world.

Although Balochistan is a major natural gas producer, Baloch women have to cook food on open fires. Because of lack of clean water, illness and disease are common.

Many Baloch women are illeterate. As a result of threats and attacks on female students and educators and lack of educational facilities, many Baloch women have been prevented from learning Urdu and English and obtaining meaningful education.

Baloch women who have been educated have learnt their rights and realized that Pakistan is directly responsible for the oppression and suffering of the Baloch people. Women like BSO-Azad chairperson Banuk Karima Baloch, and Voice of Baloch Missing Persons activist Banuk Farzana Majeed hold masters degrees in their respective fields. Both are struggling for the rights of Baloch women and freedom for the Baloch nation. Banuk Farzana Majeed was at the forefront of the VBMP Long March demonstration to demand the safe release of the over 20,000 abducted and 2000 killed Baloch people.

Banuk Sammi Baloch, Banuk Saba Baloch, Banuk Farzana Majeed and 11 year old Ali Haider Baloch marched 2000km alongwith Mama Qadeer from Quetta to Islamabad via Karachi. Unfortunately despite promises from the United Nations; the international community has not taken any action to investigate or improve the shameful human rights situation in occupied Balochistan. In addition to the Long March demonstration, the VBMP has also been holding hunger strikes and protest camps for 1918 days since 2009. Banuk Farzana Majeed’s own brother Zakir Majeed was abducted by Pakistani Intelligence Agents 6 years ago. He was never seen or heard from again. Since then Banuk Farzana Majeed has been actively protesting for his safe release.

Banuk Karima Baloch is currently the chairperson of Baloch Student Organization (Azad) and prior to the abduction of former BSO-Azad chairperson Zahid Baloch by state security forces in March of 2014 Banuk Karima Baloch was the vice-chairperson of BSO-Azad. Since the abduction of Zahid Baloch, Banuk Karima Baloch initiated a campaign to protest the enforced disappearance of the former BSO-Azad chairperson. Although BSO-Azad has been holding continual protests, demonstrations, hunger strikes, and social media campaigns, former chairperson Zahid Baloch is still being unlawfully imprisoned by State forces without charge or crime

As a result of her active campaign to demand the safe release of Zahid Baloch, Banuk Karima Baloch has been regularly threatened by the Pakistani State Agents. On a number of occasions her home was attacked by Security Forces, who on one occasion even bombarded her house with mortars. Despite state persecution, threats and attacks, Banuk Karima Baloch bravely stands against the occupier state’s oppression and persecution. She is considered to be an effective leader, and is universally admired and respected as a true daughter of the Baloch nation. Most recently, BSO-Azad announced an awareness campaign and rallies on March 18th the day Zahid Baloch was unlawfully abducted by State Security Forces in Quetta one year ago.

Banuk Farzana Majeed and Banuk Karima Baloch are but two examples of a nation of strong bold women who are perpetually faced with untold suffering and severe inequality. Every day the mutilated dead bodies of their Brothers, Fathers, and Husbands are found dumped in Occupied Balochistan. Pakistani Armed Forces carry out constant military operations against tiny rural villages injuring and killing countless civilians. Thousands more have been displaced within their own homelands, forced to flee the unending violence dealt upon them by the Occupier State’s cruel armies. Many Women too are abducted and martyred by State Forces in occupied Balochistan, taken to torture cells and subjected to usnpeakable atrocities. In 2006 Pakistani Security Agencies abducted Zareena Marrie along with her 6 year old son Murad Bux. Since their enforced abduction, her status and location remain unknown.

Baloch Women have set an example for all of us, they have shown us their bold tenacity and perserverance in the face of extreme adversity. Despite such harsh realities; today’s Baloch Women have never abandoned hope, they are bravely standing at the front lines of the Baloch struggle for freedom with obstinate resolve.

Russia's Surveillance State


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From the Fall Issue "Secrecy + Security"

By Andrei Soldatov and Irina Borogan

MOSCOW—In March 2013, the Bureau of Diplomatic Security at the U.S. State Department issued a warning for Americans wanting to come to the Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia next February: Beware of SORM. The System of Operative-Investigative Measures, or SORM, is Russia’s national system of lawful interception of all electronic utterances—an Orwellian network that jeopardizes privacy and the ability to use telecommunications to oppose the government. The U.S. warning ends with a list of “Travel Cyber Security Best Practices,” which, apart from the new technology, resembles the briefing instructions for a Cold War-era spy:

Consider traveling with “clean” electronic devices—if you do not need the device, do not take it. Otherwise, essential devices should have all personal identifying information and sensitive files removed or “sanitized.” Devices with wireless connection capabilities should have the Wi-Fi turned off at all times. Do not check business or personal electronic devices with your luggage at the airport. … Do not connect to local ISPs at cafes, coffee shops, hotels, airports, or other local venues. … Change all your passwords before and after your trip. … Be sure to remove the battery from your Smartphone when not in use. Technology is commercially available that can geo-track your location and activate the microphone on your phone. Assume any electronic device you take can be exploited. … If you must utilize a phone during travel consider using a “burn phone” that uses a SIM card purchased locally with cash. Sanitize sensitive conversations as necessary.

The list of recommendations ends with the advice to discard the user’s phone and SIM card before returning. The instruction might seem like overreaction, but far from it. Anyone who wants to attend the Olympics needs a Spectator pass, which requires registering on the official Sochi 2014 site, a procedure that includes taking a photo. What is curious is that when clicking to take a photo, a MacBook immediately warns the user that the site “is requesting access to your camera and microphone. If you click Allow, you may be recorded.”

But the Russian surveillance effort is not limited to the Sochi area, nor confined to foreigners. For years, Russian secret services have been busy tightening their hold over Internet users in their country, and now they’re helping their counterparts in the rest of the former Soviet Union do the same. In the future, Russia may even succeed in splintering the web, breaking off from the global Internet a Russian intranet that’s easier for it to control.


Over the last two years, the Kremlin has transformed Russia into a surveillance state—at a level that would have made the Soviet KGB (Committe for State Security) envious. Seven Russian investigative and security agencies have been granted the legal right to intercept phone calls and emails. But it’s the Federal Security Service (FSB), the successor to the KGB, that defines interception procedures, and they’ve done that in a very peculiar way.

In most Western nations, law enforcement or intelligence agencies must receive a court order before wiretapping. That warrant is sent to phone operators and Internet providers, which are then required by law to intercept the requested information and forward it to the respective government agencies. In Russia, FSB officers are also required to obtain a court order to eavesdrop, but once they have it, they are not required to present it to anybody except their superiors in the FSB. Telecom providers have no right to demand that the FSB show them the warrant. The providers are required to pay for the SORM equipment and its installation, but they are denied access to the surveillance boxes.

The FSB has control centers connected directly to operators’ computer servers. To monitor particular phone conversations or Internet communications, an FSB agent only has to enter a command into the control center located in the local FSB headquarters. This system is replicated across the country. In every Russian town, there are protected underground cables, which connect the local FSB bureau with all Internet Service Providers (ISPs) and telecom providers in the region. That system, or SORM, is a holdover from the country’s Soviet past and was developed by a KGB research institute in the mid-1980s. Recent technological advances have only updated the system. Now, the SORM-1 system captures telephone and mobile phone communications, SORM-2 intercepts Internet traffic, and SORM-3 collects information from all forms of communication, providing long-term storage of all information and data on subscribers, including actual recordings and locations.  

Over the last six years, Russia’s use of SORM has skyrocketed. According to Russia’s Supreme Court, the number of intercepted telephone conversations and email messages has doubled in six years, from 265,937 in 2007 to 539,864 in 2012. These statistics do not include counterintelligence eavesdropping on Russian citizens and foreigners.

At the same time, Moscow is cracking down on ISPs that don’t adhere to their SORM obligations. We discovered Roskomnadzor (the Agency for the Supervision of Information Technology, Communications, and Mass Media) statistics covering the number of warnings issued to ISPs and telecoms providers. In 2010, there were 16 such warnings, and there were another 13 in 2011. The next year, that number jumped to 30 warnings. In most cases, when the local FSB or prosecutor’s office identified shortcomings, they sent the information to Roskomnadzor, which warned the ISP. Penalties for failure to meet their obligations are swift and sure. First, the ISP is fined, then if violations persist, its license may be revoked.


In 2011-2012, while protesters flooded Moscow’s streets, the phones of a number of Russian opposition leaders and members of the State Duma were hacked. Recordings of their private telephone conversations were even published online. On December 19, 2011, audio-files of nine tapped phone calls of Boris Nemtsov, a former deputy prime minister and now a prominent opposition leader, were posted on the pro-government site lifenews.ru. Nemtsov requested an official investigation. As yet, none of the leakers have been found or prosecuted, and the official investigation has not identified a single culprit.

Such victims have no doubt they were bugged and filmed by security services, but only in the fall of 2012 did the first clear indication emerge that SORM was used to wiretap opponents of President Vladimir Putin. On November 12, 2012, Russia’s Supreme Court upheld the right of authorities to eavesdrop on the opposition. The court ruled that spying on Maxim Petlin, a regional opposition leader in Yekaterinburg, was lawful since he had taken part in rallies that included calls against extending the powers of Russia’s security services. The court decided that these were demands for “extremist actions” and approved surveillance and telephone interception.


After securing the legal ability to snoop on mobile phones and emails, the Russian secret services targeted social networks next. Immediately after the Arab Spring, they were tasked with finding a response to the threat of political stability ostensibly posed by social networks. In August 2011, at an informal summit of the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), a regional military alliance led by Moscow, in Astana, Kazakhstan, the main topics of discussion were the revolutions in the Middle East and the role played by social networks. The summit, which was attended by then Russian president Dmitry Medvedev, adopted a confidential document recognizing the potential danger of social media in the organization of protests in Russia.

But nobody in the Kremlin and security services seemed to have any strategies in place in December 2011, when mass protests broke out in Moscow prompted by Putin’s campaign to return to the presidency. All the FSB could muster was a fax, signed by the chief of the St. Petersburg FSB department, to Pavel Durov, a founder of the Russian social network VKontakte, requiring him to neutralize the websites of protest groups. Durov refused.

On March 27, 2012, this failure to find the means to deal with protesters’ activities on social networks was admitted by the first deputy director of the FSB, Sergei Smirnov. At a meeting of the regional anti-terrorist group operating within the Shanghai Cooperation Organization—a broad group of nations that includes most CSTO states as well as China—Smirnov referred directly to the challenge posed by the Arab Spring. “New technologies [are being] used by Western special services to create and maintain a level of continual tension in society with serious intentions extending even to regime change. … Our elections, especially the presidential election and the situation in the preceding period, revealed the potential of the blogosphere.” Smirnov stated that it was essential to develop ways to react to such technologies and confessed that “this has not yet happened.”

The Kremlin’s goal was to use any available type of regional security alliance to build a system of regional cybersecurity—a plausible pretext to help Central Asian states protect themselves and Russia from the fallout of Arab Spring movements. The Russian secret services launched several programs to control what’s published on the Internet. The FSB, the Interior Ministry, the Foreign Intelligence SVR, and the Investigative Committee (the Russian analog of the FBI) have new software systems to monitor social networks and identify participants in online debates. But apparently it’s the FSB’s Center for Information Security that has taken the lead in policing what Russians are allowed to read and write.

A gloomy, monumental building on the corner of Lubyanka Square and Myasnitskaya Street houses the FSB’s counterintelligence department. This looming fortress, built in the 1980s as the KGB’s IT Center, forms a part of a row of buildings, known as the Lubyanka, where thousands of dissidents were imprisoned and interrogated back in the days of the feared Lavrentiy Beria, Stalin’s hated spymaster. Initially the Center was responsible for protecting computer networks and tracking down hackers, but in the late 2000s, it was tasked with monitoring social networks and the Internet as a whole.

The Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), a regional organization made up of nine former Soviet states, uses special analytical search systems developed by Russian programmers. Called “Semantic Archive,” the system is produced by the Russian firm Analytic Business Solutions. On the first floor of the Stalin-era yellow brick building, more than 20 programmers headed by 37-year old Denis Shatrov are busy updating Semantic Archive. Not long after the release of the first version in 2004, it was installed in the Russian Security Council and Ministry of Defense headquarters, as well as the FSB and the Interior Ministry. “From the beginning we aimed our systems at the security services,” says Denis Shatrov, a trained programmer who founded the company in 2004. “We thought that if we worked with them, then we would also attract business from our intelligence services and those of our competitors too.” Shatrov told us that he began developing analytic systems in the mid-90s with his father, the director of a factory that produced automated steering systems for spacecraft. Then they began to produce simulation systems—for electoral and economic applications. Their success came in 1999 when they sold their product to the Ukrainian President Kuchma’s situation room for use in his successful campaign for a second term. In the mid-2000s father and son separated, the elder Shatrov specializing in economic modeling, Denis in media analysis.

The idea of its most  popular product, Semantic Archive, is to monitor any sorts of open data—media archives, online sources, blogs, and social networks—for key words and then to produce analyses, most famously, by building charts of connections. As it boasts on the company’s own website, “the system uses this raw information to extract objects of interest (certain persons, organizations, corporate brands, regions, etc.), their actions and relationships.”

Semantic Archive is not the only product used by the Russian security services to monitor social networks, but all of them seem to share the same fundamental flaw. These systems were developed for searching structured computer files, or databases, and only afterwards adapted, some more successfully than others, for semantic analysis of the Internet. Most of these systems were designed to work with open sources and are incapable of monitoring closed accounts such as Facebook.

The FSB discovered early on that the only way to deal with the problem was to turn to SORM. The licenses require businesses that rent out site space on servers to give the security services access to these servers via SORM, without informing site owners. With this provision, the FSB has had few problems monitoring closed groups and accounts on Russian social networks Vkontakte and Odnoklassniki. But Facebook and Twitter are not hosted in Russia and that has posed a real challenge for surveillance.


In November 2012, Russia acquired a nationwide system of Internet-filtering. The principle of Internet censorship wasn’t new to Russian authorities. Since 2007, regional prosecutors have implemented court decisions requiring Internet providers to block access to banned sites accused of extremism. But this had not been done systematically. Sites blocked in one region remained accessible in others. The Single Register, officially introduced on November 1, 2012, aimed to solve this problem. Three government agencies—the Roskomnadzor, the Federal Anti-Drug Agency, and the Federal Service for the Supervision of Consumer Rights and Public Welfare—submit data for the government’s black list of sites. Service providers are then required to block access to each such site within 24 hours.

Since last November, hundreds of websites have been banned from the Russian Internet. The list ranges from the lighthearted Australian viral YouTube hit “Dumb Ways to Die” to Absurdopedia (the Russian version of Uncyclopedia). Even the parody web site Gospoisk (gossearch.ru) was blocked. The site was a fake search engine, ostensibly created with government support, structured so that when a visitor types a query in the search box, he is asked to enter his first and last name, patronymic, passport details, address, and the reason for the request. Since it was a parody, this data evaporated into the ether.

The new Internet monitoring law has had some substantial offline consequences as well. Institutions providing public access to the Internet—schools, libraries, Internet cafés, and even post offices—have been targeted for law enforcement inspections to check for computers containing software that might allow access to banned websites. This problem took on a new urgency, especially in the Muslim-dominated region of the North Caucasus after the appearance of a YouTube video in September 2012 called The Real Life of Muhammad that was viewed as a direct insult to the Prophet Muhammad. Russian authorities promptly blocked the entire website in some regions. That made global Internet service providers much more cooperative with Russian requests. Google removed the video from YouTube on December 26. Then Twitter blocked an account that promoted drugs on March 15 and on March 29. Facebook took down a page called Club Suicide rather than see the entire network blacklisted by the Russians.

The apparent readiness of global services to cooperate with the Russian government seems to provoke the authorities to push increasingly in the Chinese direction, especially in dealing with social networks. Moscow is attempting to force international social networking companies into Russia’s national jurisdiction.

Then, right on time, Edward Snowden appeared on the world stage. The NSA scandal made a perfect excuse for the Russian authorities to launch a campaign to bring global web platforms such as Gmail and Facebook under Russian law—either requiring them to be accessible in Russia by the domain extension .ru, or obliging them to be hosted on Russian territory. Under Russian control, these companies and their Russian users could protect their data from U.S. government surveillance and, most importantly, be completely transparent for Russian secret services.
Russia wants to shift supervision and control of the Internet from global companies to local or national authorities, allowing the FSB more authority and latitude to thwart penetration from outside. At December’s International Telecommunications Union (ITU) conference in Dubai, Moscow tried to win over other countries to its plan for a new system of control. The key to the project is to hand off the functions of managing distribution of domain names/IP-addresses from the U.S.-based organization ICANN to an international organization such as the ITU, where Russia can play a central role. Russia also proposed limiting the right of access to the Internet in such cases where “telecommunication services are used for the purpose of interfering in the internal affairs or undermining the sovereignty, national security, territorial integrity, and public safety of other states, or to divulge information of a sensitive nature.” Some 89 countries voted for the Russian proposals, but not the United States, United Kingdom, Western Europe, Australia, or Canada. The result is a stalemate.

Web services would be required to build backdoors for the Russian secret services to access what’s stored there. Prominent Russian MP Sergei Zheleznyak, a member of the ruling United Russia party, has called on Russia to reclaim its “digital sovereignty” and wean its citizens off foreign websites. He said he would introduce legislation this fall to create a “national server,” which analysts say would require foreign websites to register on Russian territory, thus giving the Kremlin’s own security services the access they have long been seeking. Of course, building such a national system would defeat the global value of the Internet.


Fearing Arab Spring-style uprisings, former Soviet republics have looked to Moscow for guidance on dealing with free speech in cyberspace. On June 15, 2011 Nursultan Nazarbayev, president of Kazakhstan, proposed the idea of an alliance-wide cyber police force at the opening of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization summit in Astana. He added that it was time to include the concept of “electronic borders” and “e-sovereignty” in international law.

Ten months later, at a second SCO summit, member states agreed on joint measures to be taken by their secret services to “prevent and disrupt the usage of the Internet for terrorist, separatist, and extremist purposes.” In turn, the Collective Security Treaty Organization of the CIS countries established a working group on information security and launched a series of joint operations by secret services of member-states. The operation was called PROKSI, and Nikolai Bordyuzha, secretary general of the CSTO, reported that it has led to the shutdown of 216 websites in Russia alone.

But the leaders of these countries clearly understand that censorship and Internet-filtering should be combined with surveillance. After all, they share the same Soviet legacy. When the Soviet Union collapsed, the KGB’s regional branches became the security services of the newly independent states. But they retained the KGB’s operational  DNA, which is apparent in the CIS states’ continued use of Soviet and Russian terminology for surveillance operations. The term ORM, or Operative-Investigative Measures, was kept by all CIS countries. At the same time, the Russian approach to “lawful interception” has been adopted in Belarus, Ukraine, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Kazakhstan. And over the last three years Belarus, Ukraine, and Kyrgyzstan have all updated their national interception systems, modeled after the Russian SORM.

In March 2010, Belarusian president Alexander Lukashenko introduced SORM into his country. Two years later, the national telecom operator Beltelecom installed SORM on its data network. In late 2010, Ukraine updated its national requirements for SORM equipment. And in August 2012, Kyrgyzstan updated its network to make it virtually identical to the Russian interception system—in all, bringing tens of millions of new individuals under potential surveillance by security services.

Meanwhile, the export of Russian surveillance procedures and equipment in many cases also means exporting Russian technology, giving homegrown manufacturers natural advantages over their Western counterparts. This, in turn, has led to the growing presence of Russian advisers. SORM is also not the only surveillance technology imported from Russia to the other CIS countries. The Semantic Archive, the favorite technology of monitoring social networks, was installed in Ukraine, Belarus, and Kazakhstan—much to the delight, and profit, of Denis Shatrov.

The further localization of the Internet is likely. Soon, we will end up with a Balkanization of what was once a global internet, replaced by a collection of national or regional internets. Local security services will sell their various surveillance technologies and strategies. Governments will be delighted to extract more controls, with the global Internet services themselves being driven in the same direction of increased fragmentation by the very logic of the advertising business which requires ever finer targeting and accountability of their audience. Russian customers are led to google.ru, not because it’s established by the Kremlin or the FSB, but because Google can target ads with more precision. In the future, however, it could be the FSB directing your Internet travels.

Today, global Internet platforms are rightly considered public services, and for the benefit of the public or its institutions. To keep web services and products, not to mention the information they carry, both transparent and global, companies and countries need to resist pressure to fragment the Internet.

The World Wide Web must keep its first W. It is in the interest of all those trying to spread the ideas of democracy around the world.

A joint investigation by Agentura.RuCitizenLab
and Privacy International



Andrei Soldatov and Irina Borogan are Russian investigative journalists who cover the operations of Russian security services. They are co-founders of the website Agentura, which chronicles the services’ activities. They also co-authored The New Nobility: The Restoration of Russia’s Security State and the Enduring Legacy of the KGB (Public Affairs, 2011).

[Photo courtesy of Maarten Dirkse

Wei Qi or Won’t Xi: The Siren Call of Chinese Strategic Culture


Lauren Dickey 

 September 26, 2017

Earlier this year, The Strategy Bridge asked university and professional military education students to participate in our first annual writing contest by sending us their thoughts on strategy.

Now, we are pleased to present the second place essay, from Lauren Dickey of King’s College London.

These days, in the study of Chinese strategy, a fixation upon Sun Tzu’s Art of War, the chess-like game of “weiqi” (known colloquially as Go) or the concepts of shi (strategic advantage) and shashoujian (assassin’s mace) appear increasingly en vogue.[1] From the pages of The Strategy Bridge to the corridors of U.S. military academies, many are turning to ancient Chinese edicts seeking insight into the realm of strategy and statecraft.[2] The study and adaptation of Chinese strategic culture offer an antipode to Western thought, defining strategy in contextual terms of historical experience, strategic geography, and cultural traditions in a manner that appears at loggerheads with the operation of strategy in the Western sense of the term. To believe, however, that there is a uniqueness to how Chinese strategy knits together ways and means in the pursuit of political ends risks over-complicating the study of Chinese strategic behavior. Indeed, to endeavor to interpret not only how Chinese traditions—such as Sun Tzu’s fortune cookie stratagems—guide decision-making but to further ascertain how individuals at the apex of the Chinese central government are applying such guidance is a formidable, subjective task for which even the most adept Sinologist or strategist is likely under-qualified. Rather than assuming culture alone drives strategic behavior, such studies should be conducted alongside rigorous examinations of the other elements of statecraft.


This article will argue that Chinese strategic behavior should be treated no differently than its Western counterpart. Rather than seeking to understand or apply historical or cultural frames specific to the Chinese experience, strategy in the case of China should not be mistaken for being more unique than it is.[3] It will advance this argument in three sections, beginning first by describing common motifs of Chinese strategic culture, counterpart concepts in Western strategic discourse, and the study of strategy in China today. To highlight the mythical divide between East and Western strategic cultures, this article will then examine Chinese President Xi Jinping’s operationalization of strategy internally, in response to instability in Xinjiang, and externally, in pursuit of reunification with Taiwan and control of China’s near-periphery. The article will close with a brief assessment of implications for the study and application of strategy in both the academic and policymaking communities.


The existing discourse on Chinese strategy is rooted in more than 5,000 years of history and the battles of the Three Kingdoms period (220-280 AD), the Opium Wars (1839-42, 1856-60), the Sino-Japanese wars (1894-95, 1937-45), and the Chinese Civil War (1927-50).[4] This historical record has led some to conclude that Chinese leaders have long embraced a pattern of realpolitik in using military force (or, coercive threats of kinetic force) to solve political problems.[5] Others see an opposite trend emerging in which China may wield military might, but ultimately aspires to settle disputes and attain political objectives through peaceful means.[6] Both schools of thought build upon the examination of classic Chinese military texts, strategic concepts, and actual Chinese warfighting behaviors.


Statue of Sun Tzu in YurihamaTottori prefecture, Japan (Wikimedia)

Foremost among such analyses is a dangerous over-reliance upon Sun Tzu’s Art of War. As Ralph Sawyer notes, Sun Tzu’s text is by far the most accessible of a tome of Chinese military classics.[7] The appeal in Sun Tzu lies in its readability, for it is easier to digest soundbite-sized edicts of “know thyself, know thy enemy” or “win without fighting” than the volumes of guidance underpinning contemporary U.S. military doctrine. Ultimately, however, Sun Tzu offers little counsel that a savvy strategist is not already attuned to. Much like Carl von Clausewitz, who sought to illuminate the “trinity” of strategy by connecting the relationship between the people, the military, and the government, Sun Tzu looked at the interdependencies between these actors while accounting for the role of nature, terrain, and laws in shaping strategy.[8] Sun Tzu’s stratagems emphasize the role of intelligence, advocate tactics of deception, and highlight the imperatives of seeking non-military ways to victory. Despite frequent portrayal as an exceptionally Chinese form of strategy, one is hard pressed to think of a military leader or strategist who did not face similar decisions in connecting available resources with political objectives.[9] For the study of Chinese strategic culture, Sun Tzu should thus be treated as the norm rather than a culturally-unique exception. Its core concepts and study of waging war, executing maneuvers, and adapting to battlefield conditions does not differ dramatically from Western studies of strategy in such a way which merits an over-reliance upon the text to justify or understand contemporary Chinese strategic behavior.

Other analyses link Chinese strategy to the strategic concepts of shi (strategic advantage), shashoujian (assassin’s mace), or the game of weiqi (Go). The idea of shi—which has long eluded a common definition—can best be understood in translation as a “strategic configuration of power” seeking to create an advantage over an opponent.[10] As the strategic cultural argument goes, while Western strategists tend to differentiate between intellectual and material power in strategy, the Chinese concept of shi instead ties the requirement of choosing an advantageous situation to the application of physical power in strategy.[11] Removed from its cultural context, however, the necessity of organizing circumstances and employing military might to derive a political or national objective is something all leaders, in both peacetime and wartime, must handle.

The assassin’s mace (shashoujian) is similarly referenced as the Chinese defense establishment’s pursuit of any capability which would offer near-instantaneous use against an adversary with little or no warning. Seen as a trump card (wangpai) for resolutely defeating a technologically superior adversary in modern warfare, the power of an assassin’s mace capability lies in its simultaneous ability to deter an aggressor or pre-empt an attack. Indeed, with the People's Liberation Army’s (PLA) rapid modernization, China today is increasingly capable of developing advanced lethal platforms specifically targeting perceived vulnerabilities in existing U.S. capabilities. Nowhere is this better seen than in the development of the DF-21D “carrier-killer” missile.[12] As eager as Western strategists may be to develop assessments of Chinese military developments, ephemeral use of the shashoujian concept suggests there is little value to be added from the application of this terminology.[13] A credible threat is no less potent to a potential adversary—and just as advantageous for justifying decisions on procurement or force posture—regardless of the moniker or cultural context in which it is embedded.[14]

Finally, as masters at the game of Go (weiqi), Chinese strategists are purportedly engaged in a protracted war, maximizing their own advantages while considering the long-term outcomes of strategic decisions. This chess-like game traces back to the literati, generals, and statesman from the Han Dynasty (206 BC to 220 AD); its objective is, simply, to control territory on the game board through the strategic placement of black or white stones.[15] The successful Go player will engage in moves, posturing, and tests of the opponent’s resolve. As the game continues and the board becomes more layered with pieces, players must simultaneously defend against the adversary on multiple fronts. In other words, the game of Go transforms into a “competition between two nations over multiple interest areas.”[16] To assume that Chinese defense planners were raised playing this strategic board game, and that such formative experiences continue to shape their thinking today, is a precarious assumption at best. Even if true, does an avid Go player—or in a Western context, a diehard Risk or Settlers of Catan gamer—have the operational knowledge or qualifications to translate strategy at the conceptual level of board games into national or military strategy? The impact of such strategic games upon the individual strategist is undoubtedly highly subjective. Thus, if anything is to be garnered from the Chinese tradition of Go and similar games in the West, it should be that the formulation and implementation of strategy and gains of each player are dependent upon the choices of the opponent. Whether one is playing Go, Risk, or Catan, strategic success is created through tactics of deception, coercion, and compellence—concepts which transcend cultural traditions.[17]

The board game Risk (Bien Stephenson/Flickr)

Each of these facets of the Chinese strategic tradition should not be discounted as an influential element of Chinese history. But rather than attempting to predict how these cultural factors are adapted by current Chinese policy makers—a task which correlates to one’s ability to understand how Chinese leaders think—of greater advantage to the strategic community would be to think about Chinese strategic behavior in the way the Chinese themselves do. As will be seen below, such a framework is far more convergent with Western strategic thought than existing studies of strategic culture purport.



As Alastair Iain Johnston famously argued, the study of strategic culture offers a meaningful alternative to the ahistorical, non-cultural studies of strategy.[18] Strategic culture enables an investigation into the hidden assumptions of history and tradition which, as Johnston’s protégés would argue, impact strategic decision-making.[19] The problem quickly becomes, however, that Westerners attempt to think about China predominantly from a Western context: Sun Tzu’s writings and the aforementioned strategic concepts are repackaged to suit Western scenarios or doctrine.[20] They have become a convenient technique for many seeking an explanation or rationalization of Chinese behavior—assessments of Chinese strategic exceptionalism with Western characteristics are increasingly commonplace.[21] To truly find value in studying Chinese strategic behavior, it is essential for both students and practitioners of strategy to avoid the assumptions of placing Chinese strategy in a Western context, seeking instead to understand how China herself thinks about strategy.

There are two authoritative sources for understanding the concepts underpinning the formulation of Chinese strategy, coincidentally both are titled Science of Military Strategy (Zhanluexue, or SMS) in translation. The Academy of Military Science (AMS), the PLA’s research institute, has published three iterations of SMS in 1987, 2001, and 2013, of which the 2001 version was translated into English; China’s National Defense University (NDU) has published two versions in 1999 and 2015. As M. Taylor Fravel notes, the AMS versions are authoritative given their influence upon the formulation of the PLA’s strategy and operational doctrine. The NDU texts, by comparison, reflect the work of a university directly responsible to the PLA, suggesting these versions of SMS were likely to have been approved by senior politico-military leadership before publication.[22]

The 2013 AMS version of SMS tackles strategy in its very first chapter. Strategy, traced back to both Sun Tzu’s Art of War and its use as a Western concept beginning in the third century, is understood as originating from and developing in war. In the Chinese context, the concept of military strategy evolved in the contemporary period from research on conflict and wartime decision-making to the management of resources in conflict and the dual demands of offensive and defensive strategies. Strategy is comprised of goals, guidance, and tactics (mubiaozhidaoshouduan) employed at the national, military, and service-specific levels. Above all, it belongs to the realm of politics, both influencing and reacting to the political decisions of Chinese leadership.[23]

Similarly, the 2015 National Defense University version of SMS begins with an introduction to strategy as the ability to win wars and engage in military operations other than war (MOOTW).[24] Strategy is divided into goals, guidelines, and tactics, with emphasis given to the guidelines (fangzhen) as the framework and core of strategy.[25] The remaining text diverges from the practical, strategist-oriented counterpart published by AMS. While the AMS text devotes its pages to examining Chinese strategic thought, multi-dimensional threats the PLA is likely to face, and how to build a contemporary PLA, the NDU version is far more conceptual and theoretical in nature. It offers big-picture thinking on how strategy is planned, implemented, and evaluated while tackling overarching issues such as crisis management and operational concepts for the troops in warfare.


Taken together, the most recent versions of SMS published by both AMS and NDU offer a holistic look at how China conceptualizes and operationalizes strategy. The two texts are a necessary intellectual marriage between a theoretical study of strategy and its daily operation in the Chinese national defense community. Ultimately, neither fall so far beyond the study of strategy in the West to merit the Chinese exceptionalism readily bestowed upon Beijing by strategic culture narratives. Both the AMS and NDU texts—and, presumably, the students, soldiers, and strategists reading them—focus upon strategy as the process in which all the resources at a state’s disposal (led by military force) can be translated into desired political effects.[26] The task for Chinese strategic planners, as in the West, is no less different: policy must be made into actionable plans and power into political consequences.[27] While mainstream strategic culture arguments would lead one to believe there is far more which separates the study and implementation of strategy between our two hemispheres, differences are simply confined to the historical context and linguistic medium. In the following section, this article will continue to advance this argument through an examination of how Chinese strategic planners are endeavoring to align ways, means, and ends in the internal and external cases of Xinjiang and Taiwan.  



Since 2009, China’s northwestern province of Xinjiang has experienced an uptick in violence and unrest.[28] Tensions between the predominantly Muslim Uighurs and the Han Chinese stem from a spectrum of socioeconomic and cultural factors which have fueled the desires of some to seek separation from China. In 2006, anti-Chinese Uighur militants formed the Turkistan Islamic Party (TIP), consisting of members from Afghanistan and Pakistan and operating alongside Jabhat al-Nusra as an al-Qaeda affiliate. TIP is an offshoot of the East Turkestan Independence Movement (ETIM), an organization which, as its name suggests, seeks an independent state of East Turkestan across central Asia (to include Xinjiang) and a caliphate. For Beijing, the political implications of a secessionist movement on its periphery have been only further exacerbated by the growing number of Uighurs thought to have joined the Islamic State.[29]

Beijing has thus sought to devise and implement a strategy that deals simultaneously with the simmering separatist insurgency and the terrorist threats in Xinjiang. At its core, politics underpin these dual demands: neither effort can risk undermining the legitimacy of the ruling Communist Party and the economic development of China’s far west. A host of measures have been implemented to weaken the insurgency and check the spread of domestic terrorist cells, many of which target the Islamic beliefs of the Uighur people as the perceived root of the problem. These include rules on Islamic dress and rites observance, punishment for those refusing to abide by family planning rules or watch state television, and passport confiscation and DNA collection programs to monitor the whereabouts of individuals.[30] Such initiatives, which risk mistaking all Uighurs as separatists or Islamic extremists, have been deemed by President Xi Jinping as necessary work to ensure the region’s long-term social stability, security, and economic development.[31]

Strategy in the case of Xinjiang has thus sought to link a purist vision for Xinjiang—in which the region is prosperous and free from threats of separatism and terrorism—with the demands upon Beijing to maintain control over the far west. The challenge for Beijing, however, is that the tactics of coercion and religious repression are not well received, contributing to greater tensions between the Uighurs and Han Chinese and undermining progress toward the overarching goal of preserving stability.


Ninety miles from China’s southeastern shore lies the island of Taiwan, the proverbial cork in a bottle which prevents Chinese control of and access beyond the first island chain. Taiwan has maintained a de facto separation from Beijing since 1949, maintaining its own government, military, socioeconomic systems, and international relations. Seen as a legacy of the Chinese Civil War, successive generations of Chinese leadership remain focused on securing the island’s eventual reunification. It is the political objective of regaining Taiwan—often linked to the broader goal of national rejuvenation – which has driven Beijing’s actions toward Taiwan over the last six decades.

Beijing’s strategy toward Taiwan is perhaps the most important issue for the central government. Government work reports issued each year by the Chinese Communist Party’s National People’s Congress (NPC) offer strategic guidance for the behemoth of bureaucratic apparatuses tasked with plotting China’s forward trajectory and resolution of the Taiwan issue. While other facets of this guidance adapt based on internal or external circumstances, the guiding framework for managing the Taiwan issue has largely gone unchanged. Chinese leaders have introduced different slogans for use vis-à-vis Taiwan, but none have achieved (nor abandoned) the goal of reunification. Under Xi, such trends continue with emphasis on peaceful reunification as a natural by-product of peaceful development of relations which are based upon mutual recognition of one China encompassing the two sides of the Strait.[32]

To support this strategy, Beijing has turned to virtually every available element of statecraft to woo, incentivize, deter, coerce, and compel the Taiwanese into giving reunification another chance. Surrounding previous elections, PLA exercises, live-fire drills, and business agreements targeting Taiwanese milkfish and fruit farmers have been used in an attempt to increase votes for the pro-China Kuomintang (KMT) party. During the years of KMT president Ma Ying-jeou (2008-2016), because Ma’s administration openly acknowledged that both sides of the Strait belonged to one China, a period of rapprochement occurred—marked by direct flights, flourishing social ties, over twenty economic agreements, and periodic dialogue between the KMT and CCP.[33] These good times culminated in the November 2015 Xi-Ma meeting in Singapore, a watershed moment in the cross-Strait relationship that in many ways set the tenor for how cross-Strait relations could continue under Ma’s successor.

Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen at the Presidential Office in Taipei in April 2017. (Reuters/South China Morning Post)

The election of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) candidate, Tsai Ing-wen, in Taiwan’s 2016 presidential elections was, however, a disappointment for Beijing. Initial promises to wait and see what her policies would be for the cross-Strait relationship quickly evaporated after her inaugural speech and tacit refusal to explicitly acknowledge one China in the form of the 1992 Consensus.[34] Incentives for maintaining a working relationship with Beijing were quickly removed, replaced by a series of sticks seeking to undermine the confidence of the Taiwanese people in their new president. Tourism and exchange student quotas from the mainland decreased; the former acutely impacting a whole industry which has catered solely to mainland Chinese visitors since the early 2000s. PLA exercises simulating island landing campaigns have continued, and indeed, remain the modus operandi behind the planning and preparation of the PLA’s eastern theater command. Chinese officials have wooed Taipei’s diplomatic partners to recognize Beijing with promises of investment and trade deals, and elsewhere, squeezed Taiwan out of multilateral forums by arguing that international organizations can only recognize one China.[35]

The comprehensive nature of Beijing’s strategy toward Taiwan over the last six decades has demanded extensive national resources and political commitment. Chinese leaders have not abandoned the cause of reunification given its bearing upon the Party’s legitimacy and ruling authority. Even as different concepts and tactics have emerged, there is very little which has changed in Chinese strategy toward Taiwan. Ways and means seek a political end that will remain beyond Beijing’s reach unless the Taiwanese people have a change of heart or Chinese leadership is willing to risk the costs of an all-out war.  


In the cases of both Xinjiang and Taiwan, Beijing seeks a political objective of, broadly speaking, national unity through the application of various forms of national power. Just as rules are implemented seeking to check the growth of Islamic extremism and Uighur separatism at home, so too are levers of military coercion and economic influence employed to deter Taiwanese independence. If, by comparison, one was to examine the cases of Xinjiang or Taiwan through cultural tropes, what would be found? Sun Tzu’s guidance may suggest that Beijing is intentionally deceptive about its true aims along its periphery, or that it seeks to resolve both problems through means other than kinetic conflict. The game of Go would lead one to believe that Beijing’s desire to control both renegade territories is part of a larger strategic game; the development of advanced military shashoujian capabilities or tactics would be understood as conduits for nearing this ultimate objective. None of these, the author believes, are false conclusions. But it is erroneous to assume that China's strategy toward Xinjiang and Taiwan is a culturally unique phenomenon. As illustrated above, there is little about Chinese strategy toward either region that cannot be analyzed based on an assessment of how strategy operates in the Western sense of linking ways and means with desired ends. Indeed, perhaps all that is distinct in both cases is the ethnic groups—the Uighurs and Taiwanese—affected by the strategic actions of the single-Party Chinese state.


To be sure, studies of Chinese strategic culture have and will continue to remain an important contribution to understanding Beijing’s contemporary behaviors. While such studies seek to advance our attention to Chinese strategic thought, a focus on what is different in conceptualizations of strategy should not overlook all that is similar. As this article has argued, studies and operationalization of strategy between the Eastern and Western hemispheres appear to have far more in common than not. While nomenclature may differ, Chinese and Western strategists alike are seeking the ideal mix of ways and means to maximize chances for success in the pursuit of political objectives.

When strategies come into conflict with one another, such as along China’s periphery in the first-island chain, to assume this is due primarily to different cultures risks missing the forest for the trees. Rather than asserting what Chinese culture tells U.S. policymakers about how Chinese strategy may operate, the focus of American strategic planners should be on how Chinese strategy actually operates. In Xinjiang and Taiwan—and undoubtedly elsewhere—Beijing is preoccupied with the demands of preserving political legitimacy, upholding territorial integrity, and protecting national interests. Even as Sun Tzu, the game of Go, the demands of creating shi, or the development of shashoujian capabilities may offer insight for understanding how China looks at its strategic environment, these cultural concepts should not be diluted into the essence of Chinese strategic behavior. Just as culture changes, so too must our understanding. The U.S. strategic community must move away from a reliance upon cultural traditions as a causal link between Chinese strategic thought and action toward a more rigorous assessment of how Beijing manipulates ways and means in the pursuit of political objectives.

Lauren Dickey is a PhD candidate in War Studies at King’s College London and the National University of Singapore where her research focuses on contemporary Chinese strategy toward Taiwan.

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Header Image: A player making a move in Go. (Saran Poroong/Shutterstock)


[1] Other Chinese strategic concepts commonly referenced include: the peace-loving philosophies of Confucius and Mencius, People’s War in the Mao Zedong era, and the cultural concept of “face” (or, “mianzi”).

[2] Brian D. Wieck, "Information Operations: Countermeasures to Anti-Access/Area Denial,"  The Strategy Bridge, https://thestrategybridge.org/the-bridge/2017/5/11/information-operations-countermeasures-to-anti-accessarea-denial; Sebastian J. Bae, "In the War with Isis, Don’t Forget About Sun Tzu," ibid., https://thestrategybridge.org/the-bridge/2016/4/15/in-the-war-with-isis-dont-forget-about-sun-tzu; U.S. Military Academy Department of History, “The Officer’s Professional Reading Guide: Top 100 List,” 2011.

[3] Andrew Scobell, "Strategic Culture and China: IR Theory Versus the Fortune Cookie?," Strategic Insights 6, no. 10 (2005).; Christopher A. Ford, "Realpolitik with Chinese Characteristics: Chinese Strategic Culture and the Modern Communist Party-State," in Understanding Strategic Cultures in the Asia-Pacific, ed. Ashley J. Tellis, Alison Szalwinski, and Michael Wills (Seattle: National Bureau of Asian Research, 2016), 28-60.

[4] David Andrew Graff and Robin D. S. Higham, A Military History of China, Updated ed. (Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 2012).

[5] Alastair Iain Johnston, Cultural Realism: Strategic Culture and Grand Strategy in Chinese History (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1998); Mark Burles and Abram N. Shulsky, "Patterns in China's Use of Force," (Santa Monica, CA: RAND Corporation, 2000).

[6] Huiyun Feng, Chinese Strategic Culture and Foreign Policy Decision-Making: Confucianism, Leadership, and War (London: Routledge, 2007); Baogang He, Governing Taiwan and Tibet: Democratic Approaches(Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2015). Fravel used data to highlight China’s historical trend toward peaceful resolution of territorial disputes (M. T. Fravel, Strong Borders, Secure Nation: Cooperation and Conflict in China's Territorial Disputes(Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2008).

[7] Ralph Sawyer, "Chinese Strategic Power: Myths, Intent and Projections," Journal of Military and Strategic Studies 9, no. 2 (2007).

[8] Carl von Clausewitz, On War, ed. Michael Howard and Peter Paret (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1984); Derek M. C. Yuen, "Deciphering Sun Tzu," Comparative Strategy27, no. 2 (2008).

[9] Patrick Porter, "Good Anthropology, Bad History: The Cultural Turn in Studying War," Parameters  (2007): 45-58.

[10] U.S. Department of Defense, Annual Report on the Military Power of the People’s Republic of China (Arlington: Department of Defense, 2002), 5-6; R. James Ferguson and Rosita Dellios, The Politics and Philosophy of Chinese Power: The Timeless and the Timely(Lanham, MD: Lexington Books, 2016).

[11] Arthur Waldron, "China’s Military Classics: A Review Essay," Joint Force Quarterly  (1994).

[12] The DF-21D is purported to have a range of 810 miles, whereas the longest-range carrier-based aircraft currently operated by the U.S. have a range of 550 miles. This leads to an operational decision between operating carrier-based aircraft beyond range or within reach of DF-21D salvos. For an excellent study on the development of the DF-21D, see Andrew S. Erickson, Chinese Anti-Ship Ballistic Missile (ASBM) Development: Drivers, Trajectories, and Strategic Implications(Washington, DC: Jamestown Foundation, 2013).

[13] Jason Bruzdzinski, "Demystifying Shashoujian: China's 'Assassin's Mace' Concept," in Civil-Military Change in China: Elites, Institutes, and Ideas after the 16th Party Congress, ed. Andrew Scobell and Larry Wortzel (Carlisle, PA: Strategic Studies Institute, 2004); Mark Gabrielson, “Shashoujian: A Strategic Revelation or Simply an Idiom?,” China-US Focus, June 23, 2013, http://www.chinausfocus.com/culture-history/shashoujian-a-strategic-revelation-or-simply-an-idiom.

[14] For the United States, this can be seen in the military strategy previously known as Air-Sea Battle (since re-named to Joint Concept for Access and Maneuver in the Global Commons, JAM-GC).

[15] Scott A. Boorman, The Protracted Game: A Wei-Chʻi Interpretation of Maoist Revolutionary Strategy (New York: Oxford University Press, 1969).

[16] David Lai, "Learning from the Stones: A Go Approach to Mastering China's Strategic Concept, Shi," (Carlisle, PA: Strategic Studies Institute, 2004).

[17] Thomas C. Schelling, The Strategy of Conflict (London: Oxford University Press, 1960).

[18] Alastair Iain Johnston, "Thinking About Strategic Culture. (Does Strategic Culture Matter?)," International Security 19, no. 4 (1995).

[19] E.g., Yitzhak Klein, "A Theory of Strategic Culture," Comparative Strategy 10, no. 1 (1991); Thomas G. Mahnken, "China's Anti-Access Strategy in Historical and Theoretical Perspective," Journal of Strategic Studies 34, no. 3 (2011).

[20] E.g., Caleb M. Bartley, "The Art of Terrorism: What Sun Tzu Can Teach Us About International Terrorism," Comparative Strategy 24, no. 3 (2005); "Ancient Game Used to Understand U.S.-China Strategy," U.S. Army, May 24, 2016, http://www.army.mil/article/168505/ancient_game_used_to_understand_us_china_strategy.

[21] This is a reference to the Chinese propaganda rhetoric of building “socialism with Chinese characteristics,” which suggests that China has an exceptional strand of socialism.

[22] M. T. Fravel, "China’s Changing Approach to Military Strategy: The Science of Military Strategy from 2001 and 2013," in China’s Evolving Military Strategy, ed. Joe McReynolds (Washington, DC: Jamestown Foundation, 2017).

[23] PLA Academy of Military Science, 战略学 Science of Military Strategy (Beijing: Academy of Military Science, 2013), chapter 1.

[24] National Defense University, 战略学 Science of Military Strategy (Beijing: National Defense University Press, 2015), 13.

[25] Heath uses “fangzhen” rather than a translated substitute to prevent dilution in meaning. Timothy Heath, "An Overview of China’s National Military Strategy," in China’s Evolving Military Strategy, ed. Joe McReynolds (Washington, DC: Jamestown Foundation, 2017), 1-39.

[26] Bernard Brodie, "Strategy as a Science," World Politics 1, no. 4 (1949); Clausewitz, supra note 8; John Stone, Military Strategy: The Politics and Technique of War (London: Continuum, 2011).

[27] This is the task of the strategists on the “bridge” which connects political outcomes with the instruments of statecraft. Colin S. Gray, The Strategy Bridge: Theory for Practice(Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010).

[28] Modern conflict in Xinjiang dates to 1955 when Xinjiang became an autonomous region of China.

[29] Lauren Dickey, "Counterterrorism or Repression? China Takes on Uighur Militants,"  War on the Rocks, https://warontherocks.com/2016/04/counterterrorism-or-repression-china-takes-on-uighur-militants/.

[30] “China Uighurs: Xinjiang ban on long bears and veils,” BBC News, April 1, 2017, http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-china-39460538; “Police Confiscate Passports in Parts of Xinjiang, in Western China,” New York Times, December 1, 2016, https://www.nytimes.com/2016/12/01/world/asia/passports-confiscated-xinjiang-china-uighur.html; “Beijing laying groundwork for mass DNA testing in Xinjiang,” South China Morning Post, May 16, 2017, http://www.scmp.com/news/china/policies-politics/article/2094558/beijing-laying-groundwork-mass-dna-testing-xinjiang.

[31] “习近平部署‘总目标’下的新疆发展 [Xi Jinping Outlines ‘General Goals’ for the Development of Xinjiang],” Xinhua, March 11, 2017, http://news.xinhuanet.com/politics/2017-03/11/c_1120611290.htm. 

[32] These stretch from “liberation” of the Mao Zedong era to “peaceful reunification” under Hu Jintao and, to a lesser degree, Xi Jinping. See, e.g., Gang Lin, "Beijing’s New Strategies toward a Changing Taiwan," Journal of Contemporary China 25, no. 99 (2016): 1-15.

[33] Gunter Schubert, ed. Taiwan and the 'China Impact': Challenges and Opportunities(New York: Routledge, 2016).

[34] Richard Bush, “Tsai’s Inauguration in Taiwan: It Could Have Been Worse,” The Brookings Institution, May 23, 2016, https://www.brookings.edu/blog/order-from-chaos/2016/05/23/tsais-inauguration-in-taiwan-it-could-have-been-worse/.

[35] Bonnie Glaser, Taiwan's Quest for Greater Participation in the International Community(Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield, 2013)

The Arctic—Economic Growth or Future Battlefield?


Lars S. Lervik 

 September 27, 2017

Earlier this year, The Strategy Bridge asked university and professional military education students to participate in our first annual writing contest by sending us their thoughts on strategy.

Now, we are pleased to present one of the essays tied for third place, from Lars S. Lervik of the United States Army War College.

"The Arctic is Russia’s Mecca."
—Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin [1]

The Arctic has always been important to Russia, and global warming has made previously unreachable natural resources like oil and gas accessible. It has also opened up new shipping routes thereby increasing the importance of the region.[2] This article argues that even though Russia has emphasized international cooperation to promote economic development in the Arctic the last few years, it has simultaneously increased its military capabilities. Russia is thus preparing for future development in the Arctic that could include both international collaboration and conflict. This paper analyses Russian interests and policy in the Arctic, discusses Russian use of the economic and military instruments of power, and offers a summary of prospects for the future in the Arctic.


Russian interests in the Arctic are linked to its overall national interests. The end of the Cold War meant that the Soviet communist based national interests disappeared. In the 1990s, internal strife and unrest made it difficult for Russia to redefine its national interests. However, when Vladimir Putin assumed the presidency in 1999, it soon became apparent that his priority was to reestablish Russia as one of the great powers in the world.[3] The Russian national security strategy from December 2015 states that one of the country’s fundamental long-term interests is to ensure Russia’s status as a great global power.[4] To achieve this Russia is emphasizing military strength and economic growth.

The Arctic has traditionally been important for the Russian economy and military.[5] Currently, the Russian Arctic region accounts for about 20% of Russia’s GDP and 22% of its exports thus making it crucial for the Russian economy.[6] The relative importance of the Arctic for Russia is increasing as accelerating climate change results in easier access to resources like oil, gas, and minerals.[7] The Russian leaders acknowledge that their geopolitical influence is largely determined by their position as an energy provider and the resources in the Arctic are therefore important to reestablish Russia as a great power.[8]

Russian flotilla headed by the flagship of the Northern Fleet, cruiser Peter the Great, September 2013. (RT)

The Russian Arctic policy from 2009 reflects this and states that the first essential interest is the use of the Arctic as a resource base to promote social and economic development.[9] Furthermore, this policy lists preservation of peace and cooperation, protection of the environment, and promotion of the Northern Sea Route as important objectives in the Arctic.[10] Military security related issues make up only a small portion of the policy signals given in this document.[11] However, the Arctic is still crucial militarily to Russia as the shortest routes for Russian missiles or aircraft targeting the United States are over the North Pole. Furthermore, unlike the naval forces stationed in the Baltic and Black Seas, the Northern Fleet can move freely from its bases in the Arctic into the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. As the icecap further retreats, this freedom of maneuver increases.[12] Russia’s policy in the Arctic is based on Realpolitik and both the economic and military instruments of power are utilized to secure its interests.     


Russian activities in the Arctic the last few years indicate that economic development is a priority. The most important economic resource in the Russian Arctic is hydrocarbons. In 2013, the first offshore oil field at Prirazlomnoye south of Novia Zemlia started production, and development of similar projects are ongoing.[13] Russia recognizes that it relies on a large degree of international cooperation in the pursuit of economic development. Since the Cold War, Russia has demonstrated on several occasions that it is willing to submit to international law, organizations, and procedures in Arctic disputes. An example of this is the Russians efforts to claim sovereignty over increased parts of the Arctic. Even though the United Nations did not approve the first application, Russia forwarded a renewed claim in 2016.[14] The fact that Russia has continued to participate in Arctic Council meetings despite the fact that seven of the eight permanent member states have sanctions against it also indicates a strong will to avoid conflicts and unnecessary tension with its neighbors in the Arctic.[15]

The Prirazlomnoye platform is located on the Pechora Sea shelf 60 kilometerss offshore (at the Prirazlomnoye oilfield) and is designed to operate in extreme weather conditions. (Gazprom)

Russia has recently demonstrated willingness to find bilateral solutions to territorial disputes with its neighbors in the Arctic. The 2010 agreement with Norwegian authorities on a maritime delimitation in the Barents Sea is one example of how Russia accepted a compromise.[16] Russia’s willingness to cooperate and compromise in the Arctic is quite different from the Russian approach to other international issues like Syria and Ukraine. It is, therefore, likely that the Russian cooperation in the Arctic can be attributed to specific conditions and interests in this region.      

Europe is the largest market for Russian export of hydrocarbons.[17] The cooperative approach in the Arctic might be an attempt to ensure that these vital economic exports are as unhindered as possible. It is also worth noticing that, as of now, the sanctions against Russia from the West do not include sanctions on the import of gas and oil.[18] A second factor that could help to explain the Russian cooperative approach is the reliance on Western technology to develop the hydrocarbon industry.[19] Russian authorities recognize this, and large Western companies like the French Total and the American ExxonMobil have been invited to participate in the exploration and development of new oil and gas fields in the Russian Arctic.[20] Regardless of how successful Russia is in cooperating with the West in the exploitation and use of hydrocarbons from the Arctic, the costs associated with exploiting Arctic oil and gas resources will continue to limit the gains that can be made. Assessments indicate that a world oil price below US $120 a barrel makes the majority of Arctic oil deposits not commercially recoverable.[21] With a current oil price around US $50 per barrel, it seems clear that an oil boom in the Arctic at best is a future prospect.  

The second largest Russian economic initiative in the Arctic is the development of Northern Sea Route. The view to a new and much shorter commercial trade route between Europe and Asia has been one of the most advertised themes in the Arctic.[22] The on-going construction of more than a dozen new icebreakers signal high Russian ambitions in regards to presence in the Arctic.[23] This, combined with new and expanded port facilities along Russia’s northern coast, is a clear signal that Russia is prioritizing development of the Northern Sea Route as a route for commercial maritime traffic.[24] However, analysis of the actual use the last few years indicate that harsh conditions, costs and limits to ship size make it unlikely that this route will replace current routes in the near future.[25] The economic potential for Russia from this venture, therefore, seems to be limited. The Russian investments are most probably motivated by a recognition that the Northern Sea Route, first of all, is a domestic route that is essential to develop the Arctic region and for future hydrocarbon exploitation.[26] Other activities, like the planting of a Russian flag on the seafloor of the North Pole in 2007 and military parachute drop at the North Pole in 2015 and 2016, reflect Russian claims to sovereignty over Arctic territory and hence control over the resources located there.[27]

Map of the Arctic showing shipping routes Northeast Passage, Northern Sea Route, and Northwest Passage, and bathymetry. (Susie Harder/Arctic Council/Wikimedia)


The military activities in the Arctic are linked to the overall development of the Russian armed forces. Nuclear weapons are still the backbone of the Russian armed forces, and Moscow continues to rely on its nuclear weapons for deterrence.[28]  Modernization of strategic nuclear weapon systems is a top priority in the Russian weapons modernization programs.[29] However, the modernization program also includes a wide-range of conventional weapons. Many of these new nuclear and conventional capabilities operate in or from the Arctic.[30] Russia has also established several new units and bases as a part of “maintaining necessary combat potential."[31] The most important of the new units created is the Arctic Joint Strategic Command that significantly increases Russia’s ability to plan and carry out operations in the Arctic.[32] Supplementing the new units are several new military airfields, search-and-rescue stations and other facilities.[33] Russian efforts to modernize their armed forces also includes updating their doctrine. The fact that the new military doctrine from 2014 explicitly mentions the Russian interests in the Arctic is another indicator of the importance of this region.[34]

Some of the military activities in the Russian Arctic, like the establishment of search and rescue bases, are directed towards assisting domestic and international commercial activities. However, the establishment of new fighter bases and forward deployment of advanced cruise missile systems reflect the military strategic importance of the Arctic.[35] Russia’s primary objective is to restore itself as a great global power and strategic capabilities operating in the Arctic such as submarines with nuclear weapons and long-range bombers, support this objective. Also, the modernization program increases the Russian military toolbox as it introduces new weapon systems like the Kalibr cruise missile and enhances the capacity of existing systems like the S400 air defense system.[36] The introduction of modern weapon systems, combined with the establishment of new units, increased training levels and demonstrated military capabilities in operations in Ukraine and Syria, have made some Western experts assess that the Russians are closing the gap with Western military capabilities.[37]     

The increased Russian military power in the Arctic can be used in two different ways if status quo is not considered satisfactory or sufficient. The first emphasizes a defensive posture to defend the Russian strategic nuclear submarines operating in and from the Russian Arctic and is known as the Bastion Defense concept.

The Russian Bastion Defense.[38]

The nuclear weapons on the Russian ballistic missile submarines are essential components in Russian deterrence. Therefore, a tense situation or a conflict anywhere in the world that threatens vital Russian interests would probably lead to the initiation of the Bastion Defense concept. The Russian military would then deploy forward from its bases in the Arctic to deny others access to the area and thereby protect their nuclear second-strike capacity. A broad range of activities like naval operations to disrupt or stop Western naval operations in the North Atlantic, the occupation of territories in areas like the northern parts of Norway and even strategic cruise missile strikes against the U.S. homeland could be included in this approach.[39]


The second way Russian military capabilities can be used in the Arctic is a more offensive approach to achieve strategic objectives that international cooperation have failed to secure. In Ukraine and Georgia, Russia demonstrated that it was willing to use military power even though it violated international laws and norms. We cannot rule out the possibility that Russia would be prepared to do the same in the Arctic. By utilizing the hybrid warfare concept where military means are combined with the other instruments of power, Russia would hope to achieve its objectives without provoking an all-out international war. The tension between the natives on Greenland and the Danish authorities, and the different interpretations of the Svalbard treaty are examples of issues that might be used to initiate such a campaign.[40] The Russian strengthened military posture and capabilities in the Arctic makes this a possible approach, and their initial local superiority would make escalation risky for any opponent.


The Norwegian explorer Fridtjof Nansen called the Russian North “the land of the future” at the beginning of last century.[41] In many ways, this is still true, as most of the vast resources located in the Arctic cannot be excavated today. Russian authorities recognize this, but to position for future economic growth, they are investing significant resources to increase their control over the Arctic. So far, Russia has emphasized international cooperation with other key stakeholders in the region. However, this approach will probably only continue as long as it is considered to serve Russian interest and more aggressive use of a modernized Russian military cannot be ruled out. Large portions of the Arctic is deemed by most Russians as an essential part of the Motherland and all instruments of power, including military power, will be used to ensure that this remains true. Economic growth based on international cooperation or a gradual decline in the security situation that eventually results in armed conflict are therefore both possible future scenarios.  

Lars S. Lervik is a Norwegian Army officer and a 2017 graduate from the U.S. Army War College in Carlisle, PA. In addition to training and education in the Norwegian Armed Forces, he has a Master of Arts from Kings’ College London and is a graduate from the British Advanced Command and Staff College at Shriveham in the United Kingdom. His operational experience includes multiple deployments to Kosovo and Afghanistan and he has commanded Norwegian Army units at all levels up to and including battalion command. He is currently assigned to the Norwegian Ministry of Defence in Oslo where he is responsible for readiness, crisis management and national security policy issues.

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Header Image: Los Angeles-class submarine USS Hartford (SSN-768), surfaces near Ice Camp Sargo during Ice Exercise (ICEX) 2016. (U.S. Navy Photo/Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Tyler Thompson)


[1]  Ishaan Tharoor, “The Arctic is Russia’s Mecca, says top Moscow official,” The Washington Post, April 20, 2015, https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/worldviews/wp/2015/04/20/the-arctic-is-russias-mecca-says-top-moscow-official/?utm_term=.16377e0acd11 (accessed January 9, 2017).

[2] The Arctic is most often defined as the region above the Arctic Circle, an imaginary line that circles the globe at approximately 66° 34' N. Other definitions define the Arctic as the area north of the arctic tree line or any locations in high latitudes where the average daily summer temperature does not rise above 10 degrees Celsius (50 degrees Fahrenheit). For more details see; National Snow and Ice Data Center, “What is the Arctic?” https://nsidc.org/cryosphere/arctic-meteorology/arctic.html (accessed January 9, 2017).

[3] Kari Roberts, “Jets, flags, and a new Cold War?” International journal, Vol. 65, No. 4, autumn 2010, http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/pdf/10.1177/002070201006500422 (accessed January 6, 2017), 959-960.

[4] Olga Olikier, “Unpacking Russia's New National Security Strategy,” Center for Strategic International Studies, January 7, 2016, https://www.csis.org/analysis/unpacking-russias-new-national-security-strategy(accessed January 10, 2017).

[5] This is illustrated by this speech from the last leader of the Soviet Union, Mikael Gorbachev;Mikael Gorbachev, “Speech in Murmansk at the Ceremonial meeting on the occasion of the presentation of the order of Lenin and the Gold Star to the city of Murmansk,” public speech, Murmansk, 1 Oct. 1987, https://www.barentsinfo.fi/docs/Gorbachev_speech.pdf (accessed January 10, 2017).

[6] Lincoln Edson Flake, “Russia’s Security Intentions in a Melting Arctic,” Military and Strategic Affairs, Volume 6, No. 1, March 2014, http://www.inss.org.il/uploadImages/systemFiles/MASA6-1Eng%20(4)_Flake.pdf (accessed January 10, 2017), 105.

[7] The potential represented by the natural resources in the Arctic is estimated to be 13% of the global undiscovered conventional oil resources and 30% of undiscovered conventional natural gas resources. For more details see; U.S. Energy Information Administration, “Arctic oil and natural gas resources,” U.S. Department of Energy, January 20, 2012, http://www.eia.gov/todayinenergy/detail.php?id=4650 (accessed January 10, 2017).

[8] Roman Kupchinsky, “Energy and Russia's National Security Strategy,” Atlantic Council, May 19, 2009, http://www.atlanticcouncil.org/blogs/new-atlanticist/energy-and-russias-national-security-strategy (accessed January 10, 2017).

[9] D. Medvedev, “Russian Federation Policy for the Arctic to 2020,” Arctis knowledge hub, September 18, 2008, http://www.arctis-search.com/Russian+Federation+Policy+for+the+Arctic+to+2020 (accessed January 10, 2017).

[10] The Northern Sea Route goes along the arctic coast of Russia. This maritime route would reduce a maritime journey between East Asia and Western Europe from 21,000 km using the Suez Canal to 12,800 km, cutting transit time by 10-15 days. For more information see; Dr. Jean-Paul Rodrigue, “Polar Shipping Routes,” Dept. of Global Studies & Geography,Hofstra University, https://people.hofstra.edu/geotrans/eng/ch1en/conc1en/polarroutes.html (accessed January 10, 2017).

[11] Indra Øverland, “Russia’s Arctic energy policy,” International journal, Vol. 65, No. 4, autumn 2010, http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/pdf/10.1177/002070201006500416 (accessed January 10, 2017), 867-868.

[12] Benjamin Schaller, “Russia’s military buildup in the Arctic plays into global strategy,” United Press International, Aug. 18, 2016, http://www.upi.com/Top_News/Opinion/2016/08/18/Russias-military-buildup-in-Arctic-plays-into-global-strategy/2351471546992/(accessed January 6, 2017).

[13] Dmitry Gorenburg, “How to understand Russia’s Arctic strategy,” The Washington Post, February 12, 2014, https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/monkey-cage/wp/2014/02/12/how-to-understand-russias-arctic-strategy/?utm_term=.4358f981eb10 (accessed January 6, 2017).

[14] Richard Clifford, “How has cooperation in the Arctic survived western-Russian geopolitical tension?” The Polar Connection, December 18, 2016, http://polarconnection.org/cooperation-arctic/ (accessed January 13, 2017). Statements from Russian officials strengthen the impression that Russia is doing its utmost to limit the negative impact of geopolitical issues to the cooperation in the Arctic.  An example of this can be found in an op-ed from Alexander Darchiev, the Russian ambassador to Canada, where he stated that “Russia strongly believe that the Arctic is a territory of dialogue, not a place for name-calling and reckoning political scores.” For more details see; Alexander Darchiev, “Arctic cooperation must continue,” Embassy of the Russian Federation in Canada, Press release, June 5, 2015, http://arcticjournal.com/press-releases/1644/arctic-cooperation-must-continue (accessed January 11, 2016).

[15] “Finland set to chair Arctic Council as member relations sour,” YLE news, October 14, 2016, http://yle.fi/uutiset/osasto/news/finland_set_to_chair_arctic_council_as_member_relations_sour/9230451 (accessed January 13, 2017).

[16] “Agreement between Norway and Russia on maritime delimitation,” The Norwegian Mission to the EU, April 27, 2010, http://www.eu-norway.org/news1/Agreement-between-Norway-and-Russia-on-maritime-delimitation/#.WHjy2o2Qzcc (accessed January 13, 2017).

[17] “Will Russia Survive the Oil & Gas Downturn?” Oil and Gas 360, October 15, 2015,           http://www.oilandgas360.com/will-russia-survive-the-oil-gas-downturn/ (accessed January 13, 2017).

[18] The sanctions do include equipment export ban and financial instruments ban that in a mid- to long-term perspective will have negative impact on the Russian hydrocarbon industry. For more details see; Daniel Fjaertoft, Indra Overland, “Financial sanctions impact Russian oil, equipment export ban's effects limited,” April 8, 2015, http://www.ogj.com/articles/print/volume-113/issue-8/transportation/financial-sanctions-impact-russian-oil-equipment-export-ban-s-effects-limited.html (accessed January 13, 2017).

[19] Geir Hønneland, Russia and the Arctic: Environment, Identity and Foreign Policy, (London, I. B. Tauris, 2016), 161.

[20] Currently, the restrictions that the western sanctions imposes on the use of western technology limit the effect of this participation from western oil companies. For more on cooperation with western industry see; Helga Haftendorn, “Soft solutions for hard problems,” International journal, Vol. 65, No. 4, autumn 2010, http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/pdf/10.1177/002070201006500412 (accessed January 13, 2017), 819.

[21] Marlene Laurelle, Russia’s Arctic strategies and the future of the Far North, (New York, M.E. Sharpe, 2014), 138. 

[22] Ibid, 174. 

[23] Atle Staalesen, “New icebreakers open way for Russia in Arctic,” BarentsObserver, May 05, 2015, http://barentsobserver.com/en/arctic/2015/05/new-icebreakers-open-way-russia-arctic-05-05 (accessed January 6, 2017).

[24] Joseph V. Micallef, “Polar Politics: The Competition to Control the Arctic Heats Up,” The Huffington Post, September 11, 2016, http://www.huffingtonpost.com/joseph-v-micallef/polar-politics-the-compet_b_11920192.html (accessed January 10, 2017).

[25] Albert Buixadé Farré et al. “Commercial Arctic shipping through the Northeast Passage: routes, resources, governance, technology, and infrastructure,” Polar Geography, Vol. 37, No. 4, 2014, http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/pdf/10.1080/1088937X.2014.965769 (accessed January 13, 2017), 316

[26] Marlene Laurelle, Russia’s Arctic strategies and the future of the Far North, 191. 

[27] Dmitry Gorenburg, “How to understand Russia’s Arctic strategy.” Russian military parachute drops were conducted on the North Pole in both 2015 and 2016. For more details about the activities in 2015 see; TASS, “100 paratroopers from Russia, Belarus, Tajikistan air dropped to North Pole,” Russian news agency, April 07, 2015, http://tass.com/russia/787823 (accessed January 10, 2017). For more details about the activities in 2016 see; Trude Pettersen, “Russian paratroopers trained on North Pole,” The Independent Barents Observer, April 26, 2016, https://thebarentsobserver.com/en/security/2016/04/russian-paratroopers-trained-north-pole (accessed January 10, 2017). The United Nations is currently looking into the Russian claims for sovereignty over large parts of the Arctic. For more details see; Andrew E. Kramer, “Russia Presents Revised Claim of Arctic Territory to the United Nations,” The New York Times, February 9, 2016, https://www.nytimes.com/2016/02/10/world/europe/russia-to-present-revised-claim-of-arctic-territory-to-the-united-nations.html?_r=0 (accessed January 10, 2017).

[28] Margarete Klein, “Russia’s new military doctrine”, German Institute for International and Security Affairs, February 2015, https://www.swp-berlin.org/fileadmin/contents/products/comments/2015C09_kle.pdf (accessed September 14, 2016), 2-3.

[29] Includes investments in new Borei-class ballistic missile submarines, nuclear ballistic missiles and an update of their Tu-160 Blackjack strategic bomber fleet. For more details see Steven Pifer, “Pay attention, America: Russia is upgrading its military”, Brookings, February 5, 2016,  https://www.brookings.edu/opinions/pay-attention-america-russia-is-upgrading-its-military/ (accessed September 14, 2016).

[30] The overall aim of the Russian modernization program is to ensure that the conventional forces have 70% modern materiel by 2020 including acquisition of modern air defense systems, aircraft and ships. These weapon systems gives Russia a modern anti-access, area denial (A2/AD) capability that might prevent the US and NATO from deploying forces into areas like the North Atlantic. For more details about the modernization programand the capabilities this leads to see; Stephan Fruhling, Guillaume Lasconjarias, NATO, A2/AD and the Kaliningrad Challenge, Survival 58, no. 2 (April-May 2016), 96-97. In the Arctic, the deployment of new Russian weapons systems like the advanced S-400 long-range surface to air missile and the “Bastion” supersonic anti-ship missile are examples of how the military capability is significantly increased. For more details see; Kyle Mizokami, “How Russia is fortifying the Arctic,” The Week, March 29, 2016, http://theweek.com/articles/614075/how-russia-fortifying-arctic (accessed January 9, 2017).  

[31] Katarzyna Zysk, “Russia’s Arctic strategy: ambitions and constraints,” Geopolitics in the High Northhttp://www.geopoliticsnorth.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=153:russias-arctic-strategy-ambitions-and-constraints&Itemid=103 (accessed January 6, 2017).

[32] Among the most important other units that has been established are two new separate motor rifle brigades to increase the capability to protect Russian interests in the region For more details on the establishment of new units and capacities see; “Arctic Strategic Command Sever (North) Unified Strategic Command (USC),” GlobalSecurity.orghttp://www.globalsecurity.org/military/world/russia/vo-northern.htm (accessed January 11, 2017).

[33] Jeremy Bender, “US Coast Guard chief: We are 'not even in the same league as Russia' in the Arctic,” Business Insider, July 6, 2015, http://www.businessinsider.com/us-not-even-in-the-same-league-as-russia-in-arctic-2015-7(accessed January 11, 2017).

[34] Olga Oliker, “Russia’s New Military Doctrine: Same as Old Doctrine, Mostly,” The Washington Post, January 15, 2015, https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/monkey-cage/wp/2015/01/15/russias-new-military-doctrine-same-as-the-old-doctrine-mostly/?utm_term=.498666fc0818 (accessed January 5, 2017).

[35] A good overview of Russian military infrastructure in the Arctic that is being established or modernized can be found in the following article; Jeremy Bender, “Russia just put the finishing touches on 6 Arctic military bases,” Business Insider, December 7, 2015, http://www.businessinsider.com/russia-equipped-six-military-bases-in-the-arctic-2015-12 (accessed January 13, 2017).

[36] There are limited details available regarding number, capabilities and progress of the Russian weapons modernization programs. A good overview of the ambitions for the weapons program can be found in this article; Rakesh Krishnan Simah, “De-Dollarization: How Economic Sanctions against Russia are Promoting Bilateral Trade and Finance, Outside the Realm of the US Dollar,” Global Research, September 22, 2014,  http://www.globalresearch.ca/how-economic-sanctions-are-promoting-bilateral-trade-and-finance-outside-the-realm-of-the-us-dollar/5403544 (accessed January 13, 2017).

[37] Paul Sonne, “Russia’s Military Sophistication in the Arctic Sends Echoes of the Cold War,” The Wall Street Journal, October 4, 2016, http://www.wsj.com/articles/russia-upgrades-military-prowess-in-arctic-1475624748(accessed January 6, 2017). 

[38] Expert Commission on Norwegian Security and Defense Policy, Unified Effort (Oslo: Norwegian Ministry of Defense, 2015), 21.

[39] Ibid, 20-22.

[40] For an interesting perspective on the Greenlanders strive for independence from Denmark, see Hector Martin, “Greenland to remain close to Denmark,” The Arctic Journal, May 20, 2015, http://arcticjournal.com/politics/1604/greenland-remain-close-denmark (accessed January 13, 2017). The Svalbard Treaty of 1920 granted Norway the sovereignty of the islands but made important and far-reaching exceptions in favor of the other signatory states to the Svalbard Treaty. Signatory nations include nations like Canada, China, Denmark, France, Germany, Great Britain, India, Italy, Japan, Norway, Poland, Russia, Saudi Arabia, and the U.S. Norway and Russia have been the only signatories with permanent economic interest and presence in Svalbard. A source to conflict has been Norway’s unilaterally imposed economic regulations in the area. The Norwegian government for Svalbard can exercise its authority through strong environmental regulations and uses them to limit other signatories’ economic activities in the area. The most controversial example is the Exclusive Fishery Zone around the archipelago, which Norway created in 1977. Albeit non-discriminatory (Norway allocated quotas to all signatories), this does restrict economic activities in order to protect resources. So far, Russia, the United Kingdom, Iceland, Spain, the U.S. and France have declared disagreement over the interpretation of Treaty provisions and Norwegian unilateral regulations. For more details see; Maartje Tubbesing, ”Svalbard - Climate change, resources and ownership,” American University, ICE Case Studies, http://www1.american.edu/ted/ICE/svalbard.html (accessed January 21, 2017). An example of how the Svalbard treaty recently is interpreted differently by key stakeholders can be found in this article; Trude Pettersen, “Norway has no right to stop anyone from visiting Svalbard,” Barents Observer, April 21, 2015, http://barentsobserver.com/en/politics/2015/04/norway-has-no-right-stop-anyone-visiting-svalbard-21-04 (accessed January 13, 2017).

[41] Fridtjof Nansen, Through Siberia – The Land of the Future (New York: Fredrick A. Stokes Co., 1914, republished by Books for Libraries Press, 1972).